This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Barcelona’s start to the ongoing 2019/20 campaign has been a far cry from what they have probably wanted it to be.
Of course, La Liga’s curtain-raiser saw them defeated to Athletic Bilbao and that somehow set the tone of the upcoming games as well.
And true, the Catalan giants are currently top of the league and also top of their Champions League group so any supposed claims of a crisis are not exactly valid, are they?
Well, yes and no.
In the first four games of the new campaign, Barcelona tallied two wins, a defeat and a draw in the process. By their standards, that was a rather slow start that saw them yield the top of the mountain to some of their rivals.
Coincidently (or not?), that was also the period Lionel Messi was out of the team with a foot injury that made him miss, you guessed it, the initial four games of the season.
He was rushed back and ended up tallying some minutes in the next couple of matches but suffered a relapse and had to sit out one additional game once again.
Luckily for Barcelona, they managed to dispatch Getafe in a 2-0 victory even without their talisman, but by that point their struggles were evident despite results sometimes going their way.
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And then suddenly they started stringing together victory after victory and clawed their way back to the top of La Liga, jumping over Real Madrid in the process.
So what changed? Messi came back, of course.
In the last seven games Barcelona played since his return, they won five, lost just one and tallied one draw along the way.
The little Argentine, however, bagged a goal and/or an assist in each of those bar the goalless draw against Slavia Prague at the Camp Nou. That makes for nine goals and three assists in seven games.
And how many have his teammates scored, you may ask?
A total of ten across all of those matches.
One man scored nine and the rest of the team scored ten, three of which were assisted by Messi as well. If we remove his contribution, that’s just seven goals out of 19 that were bagged without the Argentine’s influence.
So no, Barcelona are not in a crisis per se. At least, they won’t be in a real crisis for as long as the alien can kick a ball and have a say on that matter but what happens when he’s not around?
What happens when’s gone in the foreseeable future?
“Messidependencia” is not really a myth, it’s very much Barcelona’s reality – something that we’ve seen on previous occasions before with the player himself even forced to address the issue directly back in 2016 – and Valverde owes a lot to the little man from Rosario.
But the only way for them to really improve is to somehow manage to accomplish something without him.
Can they really do it? Only time will tell.